Maintaining strong mental health is an imperative part of being a mum, so we consulted Psychologist Andrea Little from A Little Psychology for her best tips for helping mums upkeep positive mental health.
When it comes to taking care of ourselves, we often look for ways we can improve our physical health and neglect to address our mental health needs. Add to that the fact that mums typically tend to put everyone else’s needs before their own, and it’s no surprise that our mental health gets overlooked.
While you may find it difficult to make time and space in your life for safeguarding your mental health, we should all make it our paramount concern.
So what can you do to look after your mental health? Here are some simple yet effective tips to help you keep your mental health in check:
Be kind to your brain
Our brain needs nutrients, rest, sunlight and fresh air in order to function properly. A diet that is good for your physical health is good for your mental health. Spending time outdoors, getting some fresh air and sun, will help maintain your circadian rhythm (ie. natural sleep-wake cycle), which will in turn have a positive effect on your sleep and subsequently, on your brain.
Mindset is everything
The mindsets we choose have a profound effect on how we experience life. Scientific research has revealed that the physiological (ie. bodily) reaction to stress and excitement are identical. This means your body cannot tell a stressful experience apart from an exciting one.
What differentiates this experience is our mind, or more specifically, our mindset.
An easy way to apply this finding to your life is to swap ‘I have to…’ with ‘I get to…’. For example, instead of telling yourself ‘I have to get up to settle my toddler at night’, shift your mindset to ‘I get to provide my toddler with reassurance and safety at night’. You could also swap ‘I should do some exercise’ with ‘I could do some exercise’, as ‘shoulds’ usually come laden with guilt.
Surrender to control
Do you try to control the weather? Probably not, because you know that controlling the weather is impossible. The same applies to many things in life, including the idea of controlling other people (or their thoughts/perceptions). The quicker you surrender to the need to control, the lighter life will become for you.
If you find yourself stuck in the ‘tug of war’ of control, asking yourself these questions might help you move forward:
1) Is this situation within my control?
2) If yes, is there anything I can do about it right now?
3) If not, will worrying about it help me in any way?
Move your body
Any type of exercise can have a profoundly positive impact on your mood. Research has found that exercise can improve depression, anxiety, stress, and ADHD through the release of the following brain chemicals:
- Endorphins- known to relieve pain and stress, endorphins help you feel calm and relaxed.
- Dopamine and serotonin- play a role in regulating mood. They can lift your mood and make you feel happier.
- Norepinephrine- this hormone plays a crucial role in your fight/flight/freeze response. Exercise helps you balance your body’s level of this stress hormone, and therefore helps with stress and anxiety relief.
Moving your body for 30 minutes, 3 times a week has been found to have a positive effect on mental health. If you find yourself thinking that a 30 minute walk is unachievable, aim for 10 minutes and then see how you feel. Chances are, you will want to keep going.
Check your compass
When life feels out of balance, we inevitably feel stressed out or overwhelmed. Feeling out of balance means that somewhere along the way, we have moved away from living a values-driven life. Values act as a compass to give you direction and guidance, motivation and inspiration in life. Values are not about what you want to get or achieve, they’re about how you want to act on an ongoing basis as you pursue your goals.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, dissatisfied, or stuck, check in with your inner compass. Are your decisions about how you show up as a mum/partner/sister/daughter/friend, in line with your values? When we connect with our values, we are able to move our lives in meaningful directions, even in the face of difficult or painful experiences.
Talking is therapeutic
The benefits of talking are countless. It can help you unjumble thoughts, strengthen relationships, allow you to receive support, provide you with a different perspective, and often feels as if a weight has been lifted off your shoulders. We are meant to be social creatures. Having at least one person you can openly talk to, can help your mental health. Never underestimate the value of talking.
These are just a few of the simple strategies you can employ to maintain positive mental health, but we hope you will use them to better your own welfare, which -as a happy by-product- will also enable you to take better care of your family.
You can also find tips for keeping your mental load in check here.